Japan's economics minister Seiji Maehara said Friday that the country's nuclear power plants could be restarted if the Japan's new atomic energy regulatory body determines that the plants are safe to operate. A newly enacted law gives the regulator the authority to declare the plants safe to operate, but the agency does not have the authority to restart the plants.
There were massive street demonstrations in Japan after two units were restarted last summer after the country's prime minister and three other ministers gave the go-ahead to that plan.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has said that it will have standards in place to restart the nukes by next March. Although public opposition to nuclear power generation continues strong since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant last year, a government policy to end nuclear generation in Japan by the 2030s is running into opposition from the country's industries.
Japan has authorized a significant amount of new solar generation, but for now the company is relying primarily on fossil fuels -- natural gas and oil -- to generate electricity. The country has idled 48 nukes, and the cost of buying oil to generate electricity is driving up the cost to industrial users of electricity. Thus, either they raise prices for finished goods or they take a loss. Neither is a good choice in the current global economy.